Frogge the Fighter

The Washington Post‘s Valerie Strauss features an excerpt from Diane Ravitch’s latest book Slaying Goliath that tells the story of Nashville School Board member Amy Frogge and her relentless advocacy for public schools. Highlights follow. The short version: Don’t f*** with Frogge.

Amy Frogge is a lawyer and a parent of children who attended Gower Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2010, the city suffered a devastating flood, and people came together from across the city and even from out of state to help rebuild the damaged neighborhoods. Frogge was impressed by the energy that is generated when people coalesce behind a common goal. Aware that the Parent Teacher Organization at Gower Elementary was moribund, she and another parent decided to rebuild it. Over a year, they enhanced parent engagement, developed new community partnerships, and helped to bring about major improvements in the school’s performance, atmosphere, and culture.

Determined to “give back to her community,” Frogge decided to run for the Metro Nashville school board in 2012. With the help of many volunteers, she rang doorbells across her district. She raised $25,000. Her opponent was endorsed by Nashville mayor Karl Dean, the Chamber of Commerce, the local teachers’ union, and the Gates-funded group called Stand for Children. Her opponent spent $125,000, five times what Frogge spent. But Frogge won by a two-to-one landslide. When she ran, she was unaware of the national debates about privatization. She just wanted to do her part as a citizen. She quickly learned about the efforts by national charter chains to gain a foothold in Nashville and decided that this was not good for the local public schools.

Frogge emerged as an articulate critic of privatization and Corporate Disruption. In her role as a board member, she wanted expanded recess time, more time for art and music, less time devoted to testing, and increased funding for the schools, but these issues were overshadowed by the persistent struggle between the school board and the state over charter expansion. She courageously stood up to the right-wing governor, the legislature, the state commissioner, and Mayor Dean, who were all pushing for more charters in Nashville. The local newspapers criticized her as “divisive” and “shrill” for taking a stand (these are the words applied to women who speak out but not to men, who are seen as “forceful” and “strong”). The newspapers grew tired of her complaints about the large amounts of outside money that poured into school board races.

In 2016, Frogge ran again for the school board, and she was now Enemy Number One for the Disrupters. In hopes of ousting her, they funneled over $200,000 into the race, most of it directed through the Gates-funded Stand for Children. She won again, receiving 65 percent of the vote. Voters liked the principled stand that she took supporting public schools and demanding accountability and transparency for charters.

Amy Frogge recalled in an interview with T. C. Weber, a Nashville parent-blogger, that her husband had given her a clip of the Reverend William Barber, the charismatic leader of the Resistance in North Carolina who has often been compared to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Reverend Barber has championed progressive causes of every kind, including public education. Frogge remembered this message:

“When you’re called to service it’s often not convenient. It’s often very difficult and it is exhausting, but we are not allowed to give up. We don’t get to determine when it’s done. I think many of us have made huge sacrifices to continue to try to advocate for students and our teachers and our families.

READ MORE about Amy Frogge’s fight against the powerful forces that would disrupt our public schools for their own private gain.

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